Is­rael buries last of its founders

Is­raelis and Pales­tini­ans hon­our Peres

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE -

JERUSALEM: Is­raeli and Pales­tinian lead­ers shook hands dur­ing a brief chat and US pres­i­dent Barack Obama gen­tly re­minded them of the “un­fin­ished busi­ness of peace” at the fu­neral of Shi­mon Peres, the last of a gen­er­a­tion of Is­rael’s found­ing fa­thers.

But there was no in­di­ca­tion that Pales­tinian pres­i­dent Mah­moud Ab­bas’s rare visit to Jerusalem and the ami­able words he and Is­raeli prime min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu ex­changed would lead to any move­ment in long-stalled peace­mak­ing.

Peres, a for­mer pres­i­dent and prime min­is­ter who died on Wed­nes­day at the age of 93, shared a No­bel Prize for the in­terim land-for-peace ac­cords he helped reach with the Pales­tini­ans as Is­rael’s for­eign min­is­ter in the 1990s.

Long hailed abroad and by sup­port­ers in Is­rael as a vi­sion­ary, Peres was seen by his crit­ics as an overly op­ti­mistic dreamer in the harsh re­al­i­ties of the Mid­dle East.

“I know from my con­ver­sa­tions with him, his pur­suit of peace was never naive,” Obama said in his eu­logy of Peres, who did much in the early part of his 70 years in pub­lic life to build up Is­rael’s pow­er­ful mil­i­tary and nu­clear weapons ca­pa­bil­i­ties.

US-spon­sored ne­go­ti­a­tions between Is­raelis and Pales­tini­ans have been frozen since 2014.

Ne­tanyahu and Ab­bas have not held face-to-face talks since 2010. Ab­bas opted to at­tend Peres’s fu­neral, mak­ing the short drive from nearby Ra­mal­lah, in the oc­cu­pied West Bank, through Is­raeli mil­i­tary check­points.

“Long time, long time,” Ab­bas told Ne­tanyahu and the prime min­is­ter’s wife Sara, after shak­ing his hand be­fore the start of the cer­e­mony held in the “Great Lead­ers of the Na­tion” sec­tion of Mount Herzl ceme­tery.

Wel­com­ing Ab­bas, as par­tic­i­pants recorded the en­coun- ter on their cell­phones, Ne­tanyahu said of the Pales­tinian leader’s at­ten­dance: “It’s some­thing that I ap­pre­ci­ate very much on be­half of our peo­ple.”

In Is­rael for just a few hours to pay trib­ute to Peres, Obama said in the eu­logy that Ab­bas’s “pres­ence here is a ges­ture and a re­minder of the un­fin­ished busi­ness of peace”. He was the only speaker to ac­knowl­edge Ab­bas’s pres­ence.

In Gaza, ruled by the Is­lamist group Ha­mas, hun­dreds of Pales­tini­ans ral­lied after Fri­day prayers con­demn­ing the par­tic­i­pa­tion of Pales­tinian and Arab lead­ers in the fu­neral.

The rulers of Egypt and Jor­dan, the only Arab states to have signed peace treaties with Is­rael, in 1979 and 1994, were not in at­ten­dance.

But the Egyp­tian for­eign min­is­ter came and King Ab­dul­lah of Jor­dan sent a tele­gram of con­do­lences.

Bri­tain’s Prince Charles, French pres­i­dent Fran­cois Hol­lande, Ital­ian prime min­is­ter Mat­teo Renzi, Pol­ish pres­i­dent An­drzej Duda, Cana­dian prime min­is­ter Justin Trudeau and for­mer Bri­tish lead­ers David Cameron and Tony Blair also were at the fu­neral. – Reuters

Is­raeli prime min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu, right, greets Pales­tinian pres­i­dent Mah­moud Ab­bas dur­ing the state fu­neral of for­mer Is­raeli pres­i­dent Shi­mon Peres at Mount Herzl Mil­i­tary Ceme­tery in Jerusalem yes­ter­day.

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